Thursday, June 30, 2011

Evelina, Volume 3, Letters 11- 23 (72-84)

Evelina is on a mission and that mission is to avoid Lord Orville at all costs. In the past this mission would be more easily accomplished but since being guests together, Lord Orville is difficult to avoid and Evelina is finding it difficult to come up with excuses out of his invitations. Evelina is further upset when she finds that she is included in an anonymous poem, Beauties of the Wells as the most beautiful woman in town. Lord Orville’s polite jealousy is further revealed when she returns with Sir Clement who accosted her during a walk.
Lord Orville finally confronts Evelina about recent avoidance of him which has been driving him bonkers. When she reveals that she had no attachment to Sir Clement Lord Orville is relieved and eventually admits his love for her and Evelina can’t help but admit her similar feelings, hurray! But we still have more letters to go!
In rapid succession many mysteries are solved. Mr. Macartney finds out that his father is Sir Belmont (the same person who is the father of his great love) and Evelina happily informs him that they are then brother and sister. After many attempts from the determined Mrs Selwyn, Sir Belmont finally comes face to face with Evelina and instantly recognizes his wife’s face in Evelina. It is then determined that the nursemaid switched baby Evelina with her own daughter who Belmont raised and who Macartney fell in love with.
Everything is wrapped up nice and neatly in the end. Sir Clement admits to writing the letter which had set Evelina against Orville. Sir John grants both Evelinas (true and imposter) joint heiresses.  Mr Macartney marries Miss Belmont and the reverend sends Evelina his blessing to marry her Lord Orville.

Oh my goodness our salons are at an end already!

Did anyone else find it ironic how Lord Orville and especially Sir Clement keep ending up in the same place as Evelina? Of course we’re discussing a fictional story here but it makes one wonder just how realistic that possibility could be. Fashionable/Aristocratic circles did travel to migrate a predictably as Monarch Butterflies so I did find myself wondering about how when it came to the ton, would the scenery change yet the people remain the same? Goodness, it’s like taking a vacation to Disney World and seeing all your coworkers there!

The whole incestuous situation of the Evelina, Mr Macartney, Miss Belmont affair is a bit confusing, especially when the pieces begin falling together. For we know about the unrequited love Mr Macartney had for a daughter of a baronet but her name was never mentioned. Once Evelina sees Mr Macartney’s reaction when “Miss Belmont” enters the pump room, almost all is revealed. Mr Macartney is the son of Sir Belmont making him half-brother to Evelina. He couldn’t marry Miss Belmont since he would be marrying a sister…however since she was a fraudulent daughter, in the overplayed words of Celine Dion, their "love will go on." Poor Miss Belmont. She may be getting the man she loves but she’s headed straight for a mental breakdown with all the adjustments she’s bound to encounter. That’s quite a transition to the middle class.

Meanwhile, Evelina and Lord Orville were able to admit their love of each other in a sigh-worthy scene in the Library of all places. It sets my nerdy heart all a flutter! How is this not yet a movie!

I’m sure many found the ending of Evelina a bit perplexing. For we have the end…or what should be the end, where we all find out we can get married and live happily ever after. But once again Captain Mirvin barges into the story and, finding there to be a genuine lack of Madame Duvals to torture, goes right ahead and delivers one last crowning prank on the foppish Mr Lovel, involving a monkey. As out of place this little side story seemed to be, I did enjoy the prank; there’s a few New York hipsters that could be humbled with that same prank nowadays, however I think they’d be in much better humor about it.

Through our many salons, I have loved hearing the opinions of everyone since they were so vast and different. The same is true of when the book was freshly released. According to the editor of the Broadview editions, Susan Howard, “The violence of several scenes disconcerted some readers but entertained others: Dr Burney and Samuel Crisp both found Lovel too harshly dealt with by Captain Mirvin and the monkey, but Mrs. Thrale and Dr Johnson were amused by Captain Mirvan’s practical jokes.” Aren’t we a literary circle of equivocal cleverness?!

I believe the best way to voice my final thoughts would be through the ingenious method presented by the site, Better Book Titles (Check out their version of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women). Here are two of my suggestions:

A big thank you to all who participated! Thursday was my favorite day of the week in June, I was absolutely delighted by the colorful conversation you all brought to the table. With that said, what are your final thoughts on Evelina?


  1. I actually had the weird experience of going on a trip since last salon, from my native Santa Fe NM to Chicago IL, and finding I've been having many Evelina Moments: -- like heading to attend a Hindu wedding (my own family is Anglo/Hispanic and I'd never been to one) and figuring I shouldn't pack any jewelry so I won't risk being overdressed, but then SEEING what they wear at these weddings -- I could have worn every piece I own and I'd have not even stood out, and the fantastic outfits everyone else was in made me think of Evelina near the beginning, so stunned by London fashions. At the wedding itself there was a handsome fellow I went ahead and complimented, and within minutes marriage talk was being gently encouraged between us by others. I went to stay with another friend in town and was amazed to the point of being almost appalled at how big his house was; and then we went to the flea market and strangers kept stopping me to say how pretty I looked and ask if they could take my photo. It's like reading Evelina was arranged by the universe as practice.

    Anyway... to the book itself. As to Miss Belmont, I didn't get a feeling she was going to be transitioning to the middle class; rather it seemed like her marrying Macartney was the most practical thing to do (and probably would have been encouraged even if the pair weren't already in love) since Macartney is being inherited and so if she marries him it preserves the links to her foster-father and his estate.
    For the discussion a week or two back about how an Evelina movie would be made, I think structure-wise the formula is a love story, so the main characters plotwise would be Evelina and Orville. I suppose the desireline is to return home to Rev. Villars but her needline is to get together and marry Orville. The whole thing about her long-lost father almost doesn't matter and if it were being trimmed down to movie length could easily be removed entirely to save time.

    Anyway, I liked the book quite well -- I've been boring all kinds of friends with my rehashings of the story and I've been looking for a nice real copy of the book to buy (I'd just read it all online for the salon.) I hope to participate in more salons in the future!

  2. I really enjoyed this group read. I don't know what I shall do with myself next Thursday!

    I think I will have to read Cecila and Camilla now.

  3. I could have done without the Captain's final pranks. Stick a fork in that guy.

    I'm confused about what happened with Evelina's parents. Why did her Mom run away from the guy? And why did he deny marrying her? Why was he so willing to take the fake daughter later on? I have questions, Lord Belmont! Instead of crying Evelina should have asked a few herself.

    Thanks for hosting this. It was fun!

  4. I got confused at the end, well , tricked I should say. When she was going on about the monkey I felt like the book was not yet over. The marriage fix up was all so quick and fast....

  5. I, too thought the wrapping up of the love story at the end a bit of a rush. I have always wondered why Evelina wanted to meet with her real father. I guess it was for hereditary and perhaps monetary reasons, as she actually seemed to be the only legitimate child. Her dad was not vindicated to me at the end. He still messed over her mother originally.
    I agree I did not find the final prank amusing, even if Lovel was a
    fop and a clown. I am glad Lord Orvill did not write the letter back to Evelina, I must admit that I never thought he was as perfect as Evelina thought and for a very short while, after the letter, thought he might be the cad. I am ready for another book!!!

  6. I have to say I didn't like the ending nearly so well as the rest of the book. The long-lost brother, switched servant's daughter, etc are all such classic lit tropes that they detracted from the story for me. I also hate Cpt. Mirvin.

    But overall I liked the book; I was especially pleased that Macartney got such a happy ending. I wish there had been more of a coda to the Branghton/ Duval storyline.

    I think the biggest change I would make if turning this into a movie would be to increase Maria's importance. She's there for half the book and could easily be written in for the other half, she's Evelina's best friend, and their conversations would be an easy way to clue in viewers about obscure customs and internal drama. (Plus I'd love to know what *she* thinks of her father!) Although we might need to get her a love interest of her own... anyway...

    I really enjoyed Evelina's "voice" as narrator and now I really want to visit London! I wonder how many of the sights are still there?

    Most of all, though, I was thrilled to see Evelina end up with Lord Orville-- I love happy endings!

    Thank you for the read-along, it was such fun!


  7. None of it is left - Vauxhall is built up and the home of the secret service, Marylebone is a main road to the Northern parts of London, the theatres have been modelled and remodelled countless times and the Branghton's place would have been blitzed in the war like most of the City.

    Still a great place to come to, and you could walk down The Mall like she does.

  8. Rather than jump the shark, Evelina throws in the dressed monkey...what a strange way to end what has been a brilliant book.

    The man to man chat was interesting. Firstly, it must be only time we hear characters talk frankly about their intentions and about Evelina - I still don’t hate poor ol’ Clement Willoughby, it is obvious that he does love Evelina and it is his fecklessness and stupid money that stops him being the sort of fun loving but serious lover that I’d have wanted for Evelina. However, he is a rotter - writing that letter ‘from’ Orville, and his final letter, anyone else’s heart melt, or just me?

    As for Orville, I learnt to like him. I even learnt to like him and I am sure he and Evelina will be very happy.

    As for the whole Lord Belmont/Fake Lady Belmont/McCartney stuff - I understood what was happening, but it’s pretty stupid. Poor ol’ Fake Lady Belmont, losing her identity in one go, and what a stupid man Lord Belmont is, bringing up a kid who looks nothing like him or wife and then all the snivelling and crying...and what happened to the Branghtons? And Madam Duvall?

    I’d love to do another one of these soonish, maybe August (I got the month off) - I’d like to do ‘The Female Quixote’ by Charlotte Lennox.

  9. Overall I enjoyed Evelina and got caught up in the whirlwind of her London “education”. The end wrapped a bit too neatly for me with the dual marriages, hea’s, and whatnot. I just wish that if Orville was intended to be the romantic figure that Burney would have cast him with a larger role in the book. I felt that by the end I had the gist of his character, but not the depth. Boo hoo, I guess. He remained a little flat for me, though like @I Lodge at Grub Street said, the man to man chat gave some interesting perspective into their true motivations. Even though he was a cad, I did enjoy Sir Willoughby, but he had no character growth, excepting his admission of writing the letter.

    I’d rush to the theatres to see Evelina as a movie. The character list would, however, need serious trimming to appeal to modern audiences. Too many talking heads and scandals. That being said, moviemakers get on it!

    @Heather: Thanks for hosting the read. I enjoyed it immensely and can’t wait for another! Also, the revised Evelina titles are spot on! Good of you to share.

    To everyone else: Thanks for sharing your weekly opinions. I liked the mix of insights. Provided for some nice Thursday entertainment!

  10. @Min Self, How ironic! Now just think how you would have missed the correlation if this were to happen to you last month!

    @Carey, I have Camilla on my shelf right now! It's big but if it goes as quickly as Evelina, size shouldn't be an issue.

    @Chrisbookarama, I wish I could answer the question, but I feel like it's very vague as well. I know the two were married in secret in France, which makes the validity questionable in England. However I am not sure what happened to make Sir Belmont abandon/forget about his pregnant wife.

    @Banker Chick, Camilla perhaps?

    @Lylassandra, I think you're spot on. Modern audiences like to have the "good friend" character. Maria's voice is lost in the book but her importance is there, however subtle.

    @Grub Street, Oh me too! However I simply don't have time to host another one of these...well not a good one anyway! These group reads are great, the more the merrier! Right now I'm reading Mark Twain's autobiography and I find myself going, "Oh what would everyone say about this!" Which reminds me, are you on Goodreads?

    @Susan, You are most welcome, it was lovely having you! I'll be with you in that movie theater line!

  11. Mr. Villars' unreasonable demands throughout the book always make Evelina more uneasy and mortified than she would have been if he hadn't interfered with his advice. I think that Burney drew him from her Daddy Crisp, who irritated me just as much with his bits of advice and instruction when I was reading their correspondence. And Evelina's behaviour is so similar to Burney's that it leaves no doubt in my mind that she depicted herself but with an added bonus of angelic beauty and great many adventures to match the main heroine of the story. And who wouldn't want to make oneself more beautiful and one's life more exciting, eh?

    Evelina should definitely grow some backbone in order to adhere to her chosen line of behaviour and not be swayed by others or she'll be constantly pushed about by other people's whims and be obliged to do that which is against her inclinations.

    I must say that I pity Maria exceedingly. With such a father as the Captain, I fear she is unlikely to ever find a husband, unless he is far away.

    @ Heather, thank you for offering and hosting "Evelina Group Read"!

  12. Argh, my comment didn't save! I loved the tidy ending... it felt very Shakespearean to me... I still think my favorite part of this book is how much is left to the reader's imagination. I'd love to see a modern retelling a la Ten Things I Hate About You. I think it would be marvelous!

  13. I for one loved the monkey part. While I thought the prank on Madame Duval mean (she was an old lady after all), the prank on Mr. Lovel actually seemed clever (yes it was still mean, but hilarious and well deserved).

    Lord Orville finally stepped it up a few notches and acted like a man. Yay! That made me feel better about him and Evelina being together. She needs a good man in her life, after all her father is a bit worthless, although his claiming her as legitimate helped with Lord Orville and Evelina's marriage. I thought it was great that it seemed Orville would have still married her.

    It's been a blast hearing everyone's thoughts.